WJHL Celebrates 60+


WJHL-TV aired its first television broadcast on October 26, 1953. Hanes Lancaster, Jr. and Sr. and Jay Birdwell founded the station.

Eventually the Lancasters bought Birdwell’s interest in the station and operated it from alocation in downtown Johnson City that is now demolished.

The early days of television were exciting and packed with unexpected surprises. Since television was in its infancy, the station crew had to feel its way along, often improvising and making adjustments to deal with the situation.3212941_G

One situation that developed even before the station went on the air was the devastating fall of the tower on Tannery Knob.

Literally, just a few weeks were left to sign on when the guy lines which held the tower snapped, causing the tower to lose its support and come crashing down. Now in the early days, this sort of accident was catastrophic because television was new and unknown.


Bankers and lenders were skeptical; so most television pioneers had to seek investment sources that were willing to back risky, unproven ventures. The Lancasters scrambled and had the station on the air by its due date even though they had to mount the antenna on a telephone pole!

As the years progressed, WJHL-TV’s association CBS with CBS helped make it one of the strongest stations in the area. WJHL-TV was blessed with employees who came aboard in the 1950s and worked into the 1990s.

Hanes Lancaster, Jr. managed the station from 1953 until April 30th, 1989. On May 1, 1989, Jack Dempsey was named General Manager. Today, Dan Cates manages the station. This means that in more than 60 years, WJHL-TV has had only three general managers, a very rare occurrence in the world of television today.IMG_0381

WJHL-TV/Newschannel 11 is owned by Media General, Inc., an independently owned communications company situated primarily in the Southeast with interests in newspapers, television stations and interactive media.

Mailing Address:
338 East Main Street, Johnson City, Tenn. 37601
Main office: 423-926-2151

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